Pope Francis says the Church is a field hospital, but what does that mean for us?

I’ll never forget getting a phone call on my sister’s cellphone from a producer for NBC’s “Today” show. It was sometime after midnight and included offers of a car and hotel room.

We were shopping for a dress in New Jersey for my sister’s wedding, and just as we were headed for the parking lot, a couple stopped us as they were running up the down escalator. They had just had a close encounter with a man with a rifle by a jewelry counter. There was fear, confusion and lockdown. Add to it that the lights went out even as we were getting “news” from the outside, which amounted to rumors about what was happening as we hid in corners, occasionally being moved by scared staff and then law enforcement, never sure where danger was. I made the mistake of tweeting from the scene, and colleagues were getting calls and emails throughout the night from producers desperate to talk to me (even as I knew nothing). One told me I was the most famous person there, so my voice needed to be heard.

The voice that really needed to be heard was that of the young man who was be found dead with a self-inflicted shot in the head sometime in the middle of the night in a construction area of the mall. While the “Today” show and everyone else would soon move onto the next news story, during the frenzy, we learned a little about him and how he was saying and doing things friends and family didn’t quite know what to do with or how to help. I think about him often, wondering what the ache in his heart was.

I don’t know that when we’re commenting on the latest political debate over life and death, or the latest shooting or execution, or talking about abortion as if it were just another political issue, we’re thinking of the pain that is in men’s hearts.

Don’t we just have to look around to see how many people have been robbed of hope? Pope Francis talks about this a lot — looking at the unemployed, frequently. He also urges us to not be robbed of hope and points us to people who refused to be.

In addition to talking about the Church as a field hospital, he talks about solidarity and going to the peripheries. While the Holy Father obviously doesn’t mean all Catholics need to get themselves to Syria and Lebanon and the likes to feed or teach, he does mean for us to awake from our indifference and, as he says, weep for them — feel this wound on the Body of Christ. He is drawing us to minister in prayer and service, to encounter the reality of suffering in our day, both a world away, across the train tracks, and right in front of us, in our families. He points in a particular way to the domestic church, the first point of encounter for hope and healing. When the family sees this — love in its most concrete and radical way — as their mission, lives, parishes and communities — even our nation — is renewed, refreshed and revitalized.

The Church has to be that embrace we so often see from Pope Francis. People need to know they can come to us — institutionally and individually — for that which will make things better. Not easy, mind you, but better.

The source and summit of the Church, of course, is the Eucharist. How does the Eucharist change us so, whether they realize it or not, people see Christ in us, because we see Christ in them?

By Wednesday morning of that week two years ago, what had been live coverage Monday night was now beginning to be forgotten by those with the luxury to forget. A field hospital has a memory. The Body of Christ doesn’t forget or leave anyone behind or cast aside but gets better, working so that no one is forgotten, so every dark corner is illumined because of the light of faith.

One of the things Pope Francis rarely makes headlines for, though he does it often, is talking about the devil. Satan wants people to feel alone and isolated. We must keep him from success. We must answer and anticipate every cry for help, be Veronica and Simon in the passion and agony of lives today — both practically and prayerfully. The Church as field hospital is at the work of cleaning, helping, embracing, attracting and healing as only Divine Mercy can.

And what a story for the “Today” show that is!

Kathryn Jean Lopez is editor-at-large of National Review Online and founding director of Catholic Voices USA.

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